A fire in the building of the FSB Border Guard Service in Rostov-on-Don. March 16, 2023. Screenshot of the video t.me/breakingmash/42504

20 March 2023, 20:14

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 12-19, 2023

Explosion and fire in the FSB Border Guard Service building in Rostov-on-Don, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov, unrest in Georgia, continuation of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, official data on the natives of Southern Russia who perished in Ukraine, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 12-19, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

How FSB Border Guard Service building was burning

On March 16, an explosion and a fire started in the building of the FSB Border Guard Service in Rostov-on-Don. According to sources, four persons were killed and five others were injured. Fuel and lubricants caught fire in a repair shop, the FSB reported. The force of the explosion was so strong that glass was broken in the windows of neighbouring buildings, an eyewitness stated.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

On March 17, when speaking out against the mass burial in the resort town of participants in the special military operation, Sergey Belopolsky, the mayor of Goryachiy Klyuch, referred to the opinion of the townspeople. According to Sergey Belopolsky, there are enough other places in the Krasnodar Territory for such mass burials. Yevgeny Prigozhin stated that when speaking out against the burial of fighters of the “Wagner” PMC (Private Military Company), the mayor of Goryachiy Klyuch discredited the volunteers. Yevgeny Prigozhin requested Russian investigators to institute a criminal case against the mayor of Goryachiy Klyuch. The funeral of eight fighters took place in the resort town on March 19, despite the protest of the mayor.

The Kaspiysk City Court found local resident Kurban Abakarov guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. According to the court, Kurban Abakarov “expressed words discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the activities of the President” near a military unit headquarters in the presence of employees of the emergency repair team of the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD). The local resident pleaded guilty, and his actions were confirmed by eyewitnesses. The court sentenced him to a fine.

On March 15, the Kizilyurt Court of Dagestan returned to the police due to the identified shortcomings the case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces instituted against Shamil Bayazitov.

Public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov

On March 17, Ramzan Kadyrov promised to pay 5 million roubles for the execution of participants in a video in which a page from the Koran was used to light a fire and 10 million roubles for capturing them alive. Some social media users recalled extrajudicial executions in Chechnya.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s daughter Khutmat Kadyrova, like her two sisters, took a high position in Chechnya: she was appointed the curator of the republic’s healthcare system. According to analysts, no such position does exist in the Russian system of public administration. The analysts do not rule out that one of the Ramzan Kadyrov’s children may replace him in office even before reaching the age of 30.

On March 16, the leader of Chechnya again called the special military operation in Ukraine a jihad. Residents of Chechnya should be ready to participate in it, and the reluctance to go there indicates a lack of faith, Ramzan Kadyrov declares. On March 13, the leader of Chechnya called on the soldiers and officers involved in the special military operation not to complain.

On the same day, during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Ramzan Kadyrov reported about the growth of economic indicators in Chechnya, the implementation of national projects, and the reduction of unemployment.

Unrest in Georgia

On March 14, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission of the Council of Europe) released an interim opinion on the Georgian draft law “On Deoligarchization” and called on the Georgian authorities to carry out systemic reforms. It is noted that “Georgia has prepared the draft law that is very similar to the Ukrainian law,” the first law on deoligarchization, but no specifics of the country were taken into account sufficiently the preparation of the draft law. Deoligarchization “should be ensured through a systematic approach” to the problem in different areas, and the Georgian draft law “focuses instead on a ‘personal’ (punitive) approach.”

On March 14, the centre of Tbilisi was blocked by the “Conservative Movement” (“Alt Info” Platform), which advocates the arrangement of relations with Russia and against the influence of the West. Activists of the movement demanded to hold a referendum on the law on foreign agents, punish the most active participants in the protest against the law, and release LGBT opponents convicted of violence after the pogroms on July 5, 2021. The protesters tore down the EU flag raised in front of the Georgian parliament, trampled on it, and burned it.

Georgian border guards are tightening the admission of unwanted persons into the country. On March 14, Leyla Kavtavrova, a citizen of France, a native of the Pankisi Gorge, was not allowed into the country with her young son. After her four-day stay at the Kutaisi airport, the woman had to return to France. On the same day, Alexandra Shvedchenko, a journalist of the “Dozhd” (Rain) TV Channel, was detained at the Tbilisi airport, where she had arrived in from Riga. The journalist was told that she was not allowed into the country for “other reasons.” Alexandra Shvedchenko lived in Tbilisi for about a year.

Blockade of road to Karabakh

The Lachin Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outside world has been blocked by Azerbaijani activists since December 12, 2022. The activists demand from Russian peacekeepers to provide them with access to the “Gyzylbulag” and “Demirli” mining deposits. The unrecognized republic suffers from a shortage of food products and medicines, the gas supply is turned off regularly, and the republic’s authorities introduced a schedule for the supply of electricity.

President of Nagorno-Karabakh Araik Arutyunyan has proposed not to hold general elections under the martial law, which has lasted for more than 30 years, but to entrust the election of the head of the country to the parliament. MPs unanimously supported the president’s initiative on March 15.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia who perished in Ukraine

As at 11:00 p.m. Moscow time on March 19, the authorities and law enforcement bodies reported about at least 1630 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 917 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 713 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 407 perished compatriots, in the Krasnodar Territory – 116, North Ossetia – 154, in the Rostov Region – 162, in the Stavropol Territory – 127, in the Astrakhan Region – 102, in in Chechnya – 97, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 85, in Ingushetia – 32, in Adygea – 26, in Kalmykia – 18, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 15.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 20, 2023 at 04:14 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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